PITTSBURGH – Should public school teachers who are caught with child pornography be able to draw a pension from the state?
We believe the answer should be a resounding ‘no,’ but that’s currently not the case.
The question is at the center of a recently introduced bill in Pennsylvania that would outlaw pension payments to any public employee who is convicted of any crime that puts their name on the state’s sex offender list, the Tribune-Review reports.
Pittsburgh Public Schools teacher Thomas Deane highlighted the issue when he pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography last month. Because possession of child pornography is not listed among 27 state crimes that trigger state pension forfeiture, the 64-year-old former special education teacher will continue to collect $2,851 from the state each month as he serves seven years of probation, the newspaper reports.
“Here’s someone who has the trust of taxpayers and parents, and they commit an offense that gets them on the Megan’s watch list (sex offender registry). To me, that’s pretty serious,” state Rep. Eugene DePasquale, the sponsor of the legislation, told the Tribune-Review.
State pension forfeitures have received increased scrutiny in Pennsylvania since former Penn State defensive football coordinator Jerry Sandusky was convicted of child abuse this year. Sandusky continues to draw a $58,898 annual pension because his conviction did not disqualify him for the retirement benefit, the Tribune-Review reports.
“On Aug. 14, the state House will hold a joint hearing of the Finance and State Government committees examining nine bills dealing with pension reform,” The Tribune-Review reports. “The school retirement system has denied pension benefits to 40 public school employees since Jan. 1 2007, and the State Employees’ Retirement System has denied benefits to 84 employees since 2002, according to officials.”
Currently, state employees convicted of any of 27 different offenses – such as theft, bribery, forgery, perjury, and rape – are denied pension benefits from the state if the crime was committed in connection to the person’s job as a public employee. Other serious crimes like possession of child pornography and even murder do not trigger pension forfeiture, the newspaper reports.